Logging practices in the tropical rainforest are generally misunderstood. Our goal of
this page is to help explain some of the common misconceptions regarding
rainforest logging, and to help consumers make intelligent decisions regarding
lumber products from tropical South America and Southeast Asia.
We do not clear-cut to harvest timber. The common misconception among many
consumers is that companies clear-cut large sections of trees when harvesting
exotic lumber. In reality, the only environmentally and economically viable option
for extracting lumber from a tropical rainforest is selective harvesting. When
practicing selective harvesting, only between 20 and 200 trees are harvested within
every 1000 acres of forest. Clear-cutting in the South American rainforests only
occurs when land is cleared for farming and ranching, or by illegal means.
Coincidentally and somewhat ironically, the greatest danger to our rainforests is the
expansion of agricultural areas to grow food and to raise cattle. In order to create
room for farms and ranches in such a densely forested area, clear-cutting must be
performed. Government agencies such as IBAMA in Brazil as well as third party
certification agencies such as the FSC, Forest Stewardship Council, require land
management plans which are based on selective and sustainable logging practices.
Any company logging in the tropical rainforests of South America must submit
detailed forest management plans in order to extract timber. Areas that will be
logged must be carefully mapped out and divided into sections where each tree will
be identified by its specie. With the assistance of GPS, detailed maps are created by
computers and by hand. Seed trees of each specie are left in order to allow natural
regeneration to take place. Smaller trees that are under specified sizes are also left
in place so that they may be cut in the next logging cycle, typically in 20 to 30
In many cases, government agencies will require that companies also replant areas
that have been cleared in the past. This is typically done with Teak or Mahogany
plantations that can replace ranching areas. It doesn’t take long to turn a bare
patch of land into a plantation forest; after only 5 years, the average height of
these plantation trees is already 15 feet.
Selective logging in tropical forests is the best way to add value to the standing forest resource. People live in these regions and will use the
forest resource for their livelihood. The tropical wood industry is well positioned to play a key role in helping to preserve the
rain forests by providing value and jobs without chopping the forest down.